Today, we sent a letter to Amber Rudd, the current Home Secretary, requesting an urgent meeting with her.
We are a group of thirteen women. All of us have suffered the same devastating discovery: that we’d been unwittingly deceived into relationships with undercover police officers, who had been sent to spy on us and our friends.
Some of us made that discovery a long time ago, and have already spent over six gruelling years battling for the truth about what was done to us, and for assurances that this won’t be done to any other women in future.
We wrested an ‘apology’ from the Met Police Service in November 2015, but have had less luck getting answers to our questions: who knew about the existence of these units? how much information did they record about our most intimate lives? what is on our files? who were these men? who were their managers? which groups were they spying on? who authorised their activities? etc
In one notorious case, ‘Alison’ is still waiting for official confirmation that her ex-partner, who she knew as ‘Mark Cassidy’ throughout their relationship, was in fact a married police officer named ‘Mark Jenner’.
Some of us found out more recently, and are still bringing civil claims against the police. They are now threatening us with intrusive assessments by a psychiatrist instructed by the police.
We are fast losing faith in the Undercover Policing Inquiry, and call upon Amber Rudd to take action to prevent it from failing.
Following the appointment of Sir John Mitting last summer, we wrote a letter to the Home Secretary. We expressed our concerns about his suitability for the role, and the shift to secrecy, and asked for an urgent meeting with Amber Rudd. We waited until January for a reply, which told us to take our concerns up with the Chair himself…
The full text of today’s letter:
Dear Amber Rudd,
Undercover Policing Public Inquiry ·Lack of confidence in Chairman
We wrote to you on 19th September 2017 regarding our concerns with the progress and direction of the Public Inquiry into Undercover Policing and in particular the appointment of Sir John Mitting as Inquiry chair. We outlined our serious concerns that the Inquiry had taken a marked shift towards secrecy since his appointment and that as a member of a men-only club which has consistently voted to exclude women from membership, he is not an appropriate person to be tasked with investigating the institutional sexism which led to us being deceived into long term intimate relationships with undercover policemen.
You finally replied with an undated letter emailed on 12 January 2018, stating effectively that all our concerns were a matter for the Inquiry and we should take them up with the judge. Alongside other core participants in the Inquiry, we have repeatedly raised our concerns with Sir John Mitting. He, however, has continued to make statements which demonstrate a lack of awareness of sexism, how it operates, how it functions to disadvantage women and how institutions such as the police and judiciary have collectively been responsible for discrimination against women.
Recent comments by the judge show that he is out of touch with the reality of life in wider society. It is therefore critical that urgent steps are taken to ensure a panel is appointed to the Inquiry which has sufficient expertise and diversity to be able to recognise and challenge sexism, racism and police malpractice.
In recent ‘minded to’ notes and at the hearing on 5th Feb 2018, the judge made comments which demonstrate that he is not suited to the task of investigating serious human rights abuses committed by these undercover policing units. For example, in his ‘minded to’ note relating to HN58, the judge said he did not intend to release HN58’s cover name for reasons including “what is known of his personal and family life make it unlikely that it would be necessary to investigate possible misconduct even if details of his deployment were made public.”
These assumptions were challenged both in our written submissions and in oral submissions at the 5th Feb hearing. In response, the judge stated: “We have had examples of undercover male officers who have gone through more than one long-term permanent relationship, sometimes simultaneously. There are also officers who have reached a ripe old age who are still married to the same woman that they were married to as a very young man. The experience of life tells one that the latter person is less likely to have engaged in extra marital affairs than the former1 .”
In response to audible expressions of disbelief from the public gallery, he stated, “I may stand accused of being somewhat naive and a little old-fashioned. In which case I own up to both of those things and will take into account what everybody says about it, and I will revisit my own views.”
We note that before their abuses were publicly revealed, similar assumptions would have been made about most of the officers who have been exposed thus far as having engaged in intimate, sexual relationships. Mark Kennedy, for example, was still married to his wife after his deployment ended. It is naive in the extreme, or wilfully ignorant, to assume that an undercover officer who remains married would not have committed any wrongdoing.
If the cover names of officers such as HN58 are not released there is no effective way for someone who may have been deceived to come forward with evidence of wrongdoing. They simply do not know that the relationship was a fake one. They cannot therefore give evidence to the inquiry, and the officers’ assertions that he committed no wrongdoing will simply go untested. This cannot produce an outcome in which either the Home Secretary or the public can have confidence.
Despite the Chairman’s indication that he would revisit his own views, in a ‘minded to’ note published since that hearing, on 7 March 2018 he said “what I know of the personal circumstances of HN83, then and now, are inconsistent with personal wrongdoing during the deployment.” How then can any of us have faith that he is actually willing to look into the extent of these human rights abuses, or that he has an open mind about whether abuses may have taken place.
These officers were professionally trained to lie. They lied to us convincingly, giving the impression in many cases that they were emotionally distraught and going through some sort of mental breakdown. It is ludicrous to assume that they would not be able to perform a similar act for the purposes of making applications which would prevent their activities from being investigated.
Most police officers give evidence in court in their real names, despite the risk that any accused may then hold a grudge against them. The purpose of creating cover names for undercover officers was to protect their real names, yet even their cover names are being hidden from those participating in the Inquiry. These must be released in order for any proper investigation of these units to take place. Unless all cover names are released, witnesses cannot give evidence about their deployment. If the officers’ accounts remain unchallenged, the Inquiry will not uncover the extent of the abuses committed by these units and it will not discover the truth.
At the last hearing, along with most other actively participating non-state core participants, we gave instructions to our lawyers to walk out. This reflected the level of our concern about being prevented from meaningfully participating in the Inquiry and our frustration at the lack of suitable experience of the presiding judge.
We wish to draw your attention to an admission made recently in the case of Kate Wilson pursued in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. This arises from her relationship with the undercover police officer Mark Kennedy. The amended Defence from the police includes the highly significant admission that Kennedy’s cover officers and line managers acquiesced in the sexual relationship between Kennedy and Ms Wilson, which inevitably increases the severity of the Article 3 violation. This is effectively an admission of the state’s connivance in ‘torture and inhumane and degrading treatment’ in respect of the use of a sexual relationship to gather intelligence on those spied on.
We remind you that the Inquiry arose from public concern about the serious human rights abuses committed by these secret political policing units. We reiterate our request for an urgent meeting with you to discuss what steps can be taken to restore public confidence in this Inquiry which was supposed to tackle those abuses. The Inquiry must be transparent and robust if it is to discover the truth. We presume that you, like us, wish to ensure these human rights abuses are not allowed to happen again.
* Names in inverted commas are the pseudonyms by which we are known to the Public Inquiry
1 Transcript of 5 Feb 2018 hearing p.78.
Kate Wilson: “For the UCPI to offer anonymity to any manager of the SDS or NPOIU, who should be held accountable for these operations, is an insult to the women they conspired to abuse.”
‘Andrea’: “We have no faith in Mitting. He is not fit for the task, and should not be allowed to continue to lead this Inquiry alone. We believe there needs to be a Panel with relevant expertise looking into what’s happened, not just one judge, especially one as out of touch as Mitting’s recent comments have shown him to be.”
‘Andrea’ also wrote: “It is apparent that the Chair holds the rights of perpetrators in higher regard than the rights of victims. He clearly sees the officers’ human rights as sacrosanct, withholding the names of the spycops who invaded our homes, our families and our intimate lives.
Let’s not forget, at the very core of this inquiry is the need to scrupulously investigate and expose institutional sexism and racism. Let’s not forget that the undercover units breached our human rights: to privacy and family life; to freedom from discrimination; to freedom from torture. The police have admitted this. Their treatment of us was inhumane.
For us ‘participants’, our current levels of frustration are unsustainable. We do the right thing and attend the almost farcical inquiry hearings, only for the supposedly impartial Chair to follow whatever course is recommended by the army of police lawyers. Mitting even told our QC, Phillippa Kaufmann, he would be meeting her ‘with a brick wall of silence’ should she question him further on two of his anonymity decisions! Secrecy pervades this so-called ‘public’ inquiry, where officers who abused our rights are granted private hearings with the Chair to convince him to protect their privacy.
Our concerns are shared by most other Core Participants. Neville Lawrence put out this statement today as well: “I call upon the Home Secretary to reconsider her decision not to require the Chair to sit with a panel, as has been requested time and time again by the lawyers for the victims of police spying, or to recuse himself.”
The letter sent in September listed these 13 areas of concern.
We seek a meeting to resolve the following concerns:
1. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry has sufficient knowledge and understanding of sexism and its effects to be able to identify and address the clear institutional sexism which has been revealed by the repeated use and abuse of women (over the course of several decades) who were deceived into intimate sexual relationships by undercover police officers.
2. What steps will be taken to ensure that the Inquiry is open and transparent, so that the public can have confidence in its findings? In the recent indicative and final rulings by Sir John Mitting on restriction order applications by the MPS, he has repeatedly come down in favour of secrecy for the police at the expense of truth for the victims and public; the secrecy approach taken by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal of which he is Vice President is definitely not an appropriate approach to bring to a public inquiry.
3. Cover names must be released, otherwise it will not be possible to identify the true scale nature of the abuses perpetrated. Women and children may be left unable to make sense of events in their lives, and witnesses will not be able to come forward to give evidence to the inquiry.
4. The MPS has been allowed to set the pace of the Inquiry with severe and ongoing delays and applications for secrecy, and despite a huge budget have been allowed every latitude to delay still further. What steps will be taken to ensure that cover names are released as soon as possible?
5. The Inquiry is an investigation into serious wrongdoing by the MPS yet this same body maintains control of much of the evidence, including that which could demonstrate the guilt of officers and their managers, how can this be appropriate?
6. Evidence controlled by the MPS is not being disclosed to those spied upon. This both impacts on our ability to process what happened and hampers the Inquiry’s progress and likely success: since our investigations were instrumental in bringing human rights abuses to light, clearly if we had access to these documents we could assist with identifying areas for investigation and with correcting inaccuracies. What steps will be taken to speed up the release of material, especially of material over twenty years old, in line with the government’s twenty-year rule?
7. It is wrong that the MPS has unlimited resources to impugn those who were spied on and abused. This is a similar tactic – now thoroughly condemned – to that used by the police at Hillsborough, and it must not be allowed to continue. We are concerned in any event at the significant financial and power imbalance between the MPS resources and those of the victims of police spying. As a result of this imbalance, the non-state core participants (NSCPs) are, in practice, prevented from making submissions on issues of concern to them, whereas the MPS is able to make multiple applications of its choosing.
8. MPS documents served recently, including the Risk Assessment and Mosaic Report, contain multiple inaccuracies and offensive material. They suggest that our motives for searching for our disappeared partners were sinister and malign, rather than acknowledging that the police abuses would not have come to light without our research and that of the Undercover Research Group.
9. MPS reports repeatedly attempt to downplay the abuses committed against us and other women, or even suggest they did not happen, for example Mosaic Effect Report [4.4] uses the word allegedly regarding a woman being deceived into a sexual relationship with Bob Lambert, despite the fact that after women he deceived bravely came forward to report this abuse, even Lambert himself admitted to having four sexual relationships while undercover.
10. Public protests seeking accountability for the actions of police who have committed abuses have offensively been labelled harassment [e.g. Risk Assessment Briefing Note 10.12] despite the fact that protest is a protected right. Furthermore, as none of the officers have been prosecuted or disciplined for the human rights abuses they have committed, the public clearly cannot rely on the state for accountability. What steps will be taken to ensure that this abuse of victims and public resources does not continue?
11. It is insulting that we were required to provide intrusive psychological reports to the MPS which was responsible for the abuse and invasion of privacy we were subjected to, yet neither we nor our lawyers are allowed to see or challenge police psychological reports being used by the MPS to argue for secrecy at the Inquiry.
12. The fact that the Chair is minded to accept secrecy in the Inquiry around the identities and actions of officers and units who committed serious abuses, for fear that openness would cause too much stress or potentially harm those officers, is of grave concern. This is not a privilege generally extended to anyone else accused or under investigation, and looks alarmingly like an attempt to protect the reputation of the police.
13. The disparity between the cavalier approach to the privacy of victims of undercover policing compared to the cautiousness towards the MPS, evidenced by data breaches relating to NSCPs, including the recent publication by the Inquiry of the real name of one of us despite a court order with penal notice prohibiting this.”